This posting continues a series of pieces called “Who’s a Jew.” These essays are not pretending to be halachic discussions, nor are they an invitation to debate the relative worth of various streams of Judaism - or of the other boxes into which individuals and groups try to stuff Yiddishkeit. Rather, these writings are meant to be reflections, contemplations and inspirations for the many-faceted ways in which Judaism is reflected in each of us. It’s important for us to validate that Jews come in lots of flavors.
Judaism is an identity. Israel is the Jewish home. Jews can no more divorce themselves from Israel than they can wittingly pluck their souls from their bodies. Passion necessarily follows.
I’m blaring among the mustards. The melodies of Udi Davidi, a folk singer who brings to life Psalms, is pouring out of my stereo. I have cranked the sound up so high that if I let my left hand linger on my car door, as the dust of the outside world blows past, I can feel my speakers’ vibrations. What’s more, people outside of my car can hear my patriotic music.
I am home. This is my home. This land has always and will always be home for me and for my people.
Accordingly, as I travel among hostile spots, I keep my windows rolled down. My songs proclaim pride in ownership.
This land was my forefather’s. It is mine. It is my children’s heritage.
Ordinarily, I am quiet. I own no television, seek out no movies and disdain loud compositions both in my apartment and, as can be heard through the walls, in the apartments of my neighbors. I reflexively shudder when passing by buildings spilling over with shattering thuds and insist that my children, adolescents to a one, muffle their tunes with headphones or similar devices. I am not queen of extraneous reverberations.
Yet, I have no remorse for either the tears that streak my cheeks or for the decibels that escape my automobile as I drive along my native soil. If I had a license, perhaps I’d as well be shooting a gun into the sky. My declaration is consequential.
You see, our checkpoints have been vacated. Our civil government has pulled our soldiers away from the peripheries they used to watch over. Meanwhile, our emboldened cousins run crazy through our countryside. When I drive to a nearby village for a seudah brit milah or for a chatunah, I now do so without human aid; only Heaven protects me.
Travel through the chambers of my motherland has ceased to be a route of certainty. Each time, before I drive, I pray for safe passage and for safe return while my cousins transport without restraint, fearing no harm, knowing that the world’s media is their purchased watchdog.
In the universities where I teach, those cousins fill seats. They recuperate in my hospitals. They take jobs in my corporate centers. They make a ruckus in order to use my roads unencumbered, to receive humanitarian aid from my people, and to ratchet up the nature of the handouts, of which they take from all of humanity.
At the same time, my kin, who do not hurt outsiders because of temporary corporeal or cerebral indigestion, who do not set children ablaze with bombs because it’s easy and impersonal and who do not force young women to choose between rape and suicide, because of compromised mores, would never dare to enter my cousins’ social institutions. No amount of linguistic prowess or even of firearm power could guarantee my brothers any sort of sanctuary among them.
Funny thing, despite the fact that their leadership skims the best of their resources and catalyzes the destruction of our reservoirs, those ''others'' lead the planet in clamoring for my people’s demise. The prophets foresaw such an exigency. I live it.
So, on this temperate morning, during this span when I am not free to enter and to exist, let alone to linger, in domains that are part of my homeland, I turn up the volume. In the same way as the mustards blossom and in that the milk thistle salute with speckled leaves, in that the cyclamens open toward the sky and the wee blue and green grasses sprout, I mean to scream to anyone who might hear me.
I am all but tepid in my intentionality. I am of this nation. This nation is mine.
Next week, B’ezrat Hashem, Part VII of “Who’s a Jew,” “Overview” will wrap this miniseries with a look at some unrequited longings.